YOUR HEALTH: Trauma has no timeline: Silent symptoms

Trauma doesn’t have a timeline and can be triggered years, even decades after the event.
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 8:50 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Trauma—70 percent of adults will experience some form of it at some point in their lives – that’s more than 220 million people in the U.S. It can impact a person’s physical health, mental health, the way they live their lives, their work, and even affect the people they are closest to. The thing about trauma is nobody knows who will experience it or how they will experience it. In fact, trauma doesn’t have a timeline and can be triggered years, even decades after the event.

“Trauma’s a really interesting thing where a lot of times we’re trying to bury it and not even consciously,” said Dr. Jessica Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Gold says that many times people believe if they push forward, they can overcome its effects.

“We just spent a day dealing with it and then kind of pulled ourselves together and went back and did our thing. And so, sometimes, then we think we’re fine. ‘That obviously didn’t affect me as much as it might have affected someone else,” Dr. Gold said.

A sound, a TV show, a photo, a conversation, and things start to change.

“So, that can look like anxiety; can look like trouble breathing,” Dr. Gold explained.

Dr. Gold says a body doesn’t forget.

“That there are things that remind you of the trauma that you feel in your body and don’t know why,” she said.

It could be a headache for no reason, a stomachache, muscle tension, or a sore neck.

“Sometimes, with therapy, you can start to figure out what it’s related to,” Dr. Gold said.

Delayed emotional response can also happen at any time.

“Emotional dysregulation will be what we would call that in fancier terms. But really, that just means, like, ‘I’m angry at people and I don’t know why, or I’m irritable and I don’t know why,” Dr. Gold explained.

Understanding that trauma has no timeline and that what a person is experiencing is a reaction from the past is the first step to healing in the future.

Dr. Gold says to avoid saying things like, “I know what you’re going through,” “I’m so sorry for you,” “It could be worse” and “It will be ok” when someone is going through trauma. The best thing to do is be there for them and listen to them.

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